On the heels of news of an Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) outbreak that killed 16 emu birds on a Brandon farm last week, the Town of Middlebury has announced that a dead bird, found Sept. 16, tested positive for West Nile Virus (WNV) Sept. 29.
According to Tom Scanlon, Middlebury’s deputy health officer, Sept. 29, “the Vermont Department of Health has just notified me that the dead bird tested positive for West Nile Virus. Everyone, particularly those working outside, should take all necessary precautions and protect themselves from mosquitoes—which are responsible for the spread of this disease—until the end of the current mosquito season.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise that the West Nile virus is a potentially serious illness.
The CDC says the easiest and best way to avoid WNV is to prevent mosquito bites:
•When you are outdoors, use insect repellent containing an EPA-registered active ingredient. Follow the directions on the package. (DEET spray, oil or lotion is the best defense.)
•Many mosquitoes are most active at dusk and dawn. Be sure to use insect repellent and wear long sleeves and pants at these times or consider staying indoors during these hours.
•Make sure you have good screens on your windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out.
•Get rid of mosquito breeding sites by emptying standing water from flower pots, buckets and barrels. Change the water in pet dishes and replace the water in bird baths weekly. Drill holes in tire swings so water drains out. Keep children's wading pools empty and on their sides when they aren't being used.
About one in 150 people infected with WNV will develop severe illness. The severe symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. These symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent.
Up to 20 percent of the people who become infected have symptoms such as fever, headache, and body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back. Symptoms can last for as short as a few days, though even healthy people have become sick for several weeks.
Approximately 80 percent of people (about four out of five) who are infected with WNV will not show any symptoms at all.
Persistent standing water, seen in fields and in old tires and similar junk, following the Aug. 28 tropical storm is a major contributing factor to the recent appearances of both WNV and EEE locally.